Austin City Council to vote on proposal to help fund struggling music venues

Owners of iconic music venues say time is running out to save the majority of clubs from shutting down for good. In an effort to help, Thursday, Austin City Council will vote on a proposal that could provide $15 million dollars to live music venues, restaurants, and childcare providers. 

Following COVID-19 shutdown orders, some of Austin's favorite music venues have already permanently stopped the music. 

Remaining club owners working with the National Independent Venue Association said a survey they conducted showed 90 percent of venues and 50 percent of musicians will bow out of the industry in just a couple months without significant financial help. 

"We're looking at losing 30 or 40 of our venues and that'll leave a dozen, maybe, left in a place where there used to be 50 plus places for an artist to go make a living by playing music," said Steve Sternschein, co-owner of Empire Control Room and Garage and board member at NIVA. 

Thursday, Austin City Council will consider a proposal to direct $5 million to music venues and another $10 million to be split up between iconic music venues, restaurants, arts organizations, and childcare providers. 

"We need to get financial assistance to the folks that are the music in Austin and who are the food in Austin because music and food are what’s crafted our brand that’s why people come to Austin," said Austin City Council member Leslie Pool, District 7. 


"We have so many businesses in our community that are suffering and face the prospect of closing. We really do need federal help in order to deal with the scale of this challenge... But we can’t wait for federal help and the SAVES resolution was focused on a relatively small number of those businesses that were facing imminent closure," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.  

Sternschein said the council's plan could help struggling venues survive a longer intermission. "Currently, it's a $5 million fund for live music, which, in my opinion, is not enough to really support our whole community here. There are over 50 locations and, if you just chop that number up, you can get down to brass tax and see that it's not going to solve the full problem," Sternschein said.  

"But, I suppose, potentially combined with the federal aid, that would be a good solution," he added. 

"It strikes me as not sufficient. I think it’s a good start," said Austin City Councilmember Ann Kitchen, District 5. 

Council says they will continue to look for additional funding options in order to save the music, but they need to do so quickly. 

Sternschein said help needs to hit the clubs in double time in order to make sure musicians can return to the stage. 

"People might be able to make last-ditch desperate plans that aren't just complete shots in the dark, but there's still going to be closures that happen in the next three months before that aid comes through," said Sternschein.